I might have felt confident about the Women’s chance for a victory at home against Santa Clara, but I didn’t think they would win in the fashion and amount we watched on Thursday. Honestly, my thought while watching the game was: don’t hurt em!
Brynna Maxwell started the game off with a quick three pointer after coming around the Kayleigh Truong pick and receiving a smart pass by Yvonne Ejim. On the following defensive possession, Kayleigh showed Tess Heal that if she was going to continue her stretch of 20+ point games, she was going to have fight for every point. To me, those two possessions encapsulate the type of energy the Bulldogs brought into this matchup against one of the better teams in the conference.
Despite that strong start, the first quarter was kind of disappointing. Gonzaga’s passing wasn’t as crisp and accurate as it we’ve come to expect from this team which allowed Santa Clara’s players to recover from the deeper help positioning against Yvonne and Eliza. While there were a couple nice plays into the paint, the Bulldogs seemed to intent on trying to take three pointers in spots that I haven’t seen much this season and they went just 2-7 from range this quarter while only shooting the ball 12 total times (6-12) compared to 15 by Santa Clara. In the dying moments of the period, Marya Hudgins stole a cross-court pass from Kayleigh then stormed up the court to nail a buzzer beater three pointer to help her team head into the break down just one point, 14-13.
Santa Clara made the first bucket of the quarter to take the lead by 1 point, but that glimmer of hope for the upset was promptly shut down as the Bulldogs went off for 24 points while holding the Broncos to just 7 points. The defense tightened up by switching better which allowed for more effective prevention of the penetrating drives that Santa Clara depends on for their success and forced a number of turnovers. Yvonne hit her stride by dominating the opposition’s paint with athletic recoveries, tough offensive rebounds, and creating for her teammates with good screens and smart passing. Bree Salenbien hit her first career three pointer midway through the period and drew loud cheers from those on the bench and the fans in the arena. Hollingsworth must’ve watched Hudgins’ first quarter-ending three pointer and said, “I can do that” as she drained an elbow three pointer with a quick release to conclude the period with Gonzaga leading 41-22.
Coming out of the half, Gonzaga could have let their foot off the gas given the 19 point lead, but they did anything but as they topped their second quarter performance by scoring 26 points while only allowing the Broncos to score 12. That being said, Santa Clara scored the first five points of the quarter as they were trying to crawl back into the game, but Gonzaga wasn’t having such nonsense as the team continued their tough defensive pressure to force turnovers, grabbed offensive rebounds, and made eleven of their twenty shots. Eliza had a hot quarter with 9 points while Yvonne and Callie both dropped 5. Heading into the final quarter, Gonzaga led 67-36.
After dropping 16 points in the first 4 minutes of the final period, Coach Fortier finally showed some mercy to the Broncos by bringing in some of the backups for the remainder of the matchup and allowing them to close out this well deserved victory, 87-49.
Key stats to note from the final boxscore:
- Four players scored in double figures including Yvonne Ejim, Eliza Hollingsworth, Kaylynne Truong, and Brynna Maxwell. The bench unit contributed one of their higher scoring performances of the year with 18 points with Callie leading the way with 9 points. Meanwhile, only one player from Santa Clara broke into double digits as Tess Heal scored 10 points, which is far below her season average of 19 per game.
- As a team, Gonzaga shot 34-57 (58%) overall and 10-22 (46%) from deep while Santa Clara only converted 19-58 (33%) shots and 7-24 (29%) from three point range. It’s great to see the shooting efficiency bounce back after a rough showing against Portland. At this stage in the season, Gonzaga is ranked 24th in the nation for 2FG% with a 53.7% mark and 5th in the nation in 3FG% at 39.7%. It’s crazy to think that this team could have eclipsed 100 if they continued the rate of scoring seen in the first part of the fourth quarter.
- Zags out rebounded the Broncos 34-28, but did lose on the offensive glass, 6-11. Thankfully, this didn’t cause too many problems as Santa Clara only created 10 second chance points while the Bulldogs turned in 6 such points from their opportunities.
- Gonzaga forced 14 steals (!) and caused 20 turnovers from Santa Clara that were able to be converted into 25 points. Tess Heal alone coughed up 8 turnovers while only adding 1 assist. On the flip side, the Bulldogs committed 14 turnovers, which the Broncos flipped into 16 points.
- Yvonne Ejim played a nearly perfect game as she dropped 19 points on 7-7 FGs and 5-5 FTs while also contributing 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and 3 steals. Her scoring creation was wonderful to watch during this game as her assists were classy and she setup her teammates for success with high quality screens. She may have only played 23 minutes, but she only committed 2 fouls and honestly, didn’t need to play more.
- Eliza Hollingsworth went for 18 points on 8-9 shooting including one from deep while leading the Zags with 7 rebounds. She looked really strong tonight and it’s always great to see her clicking offensively. Long may her dominance continue.
- Kayleigh Truong had a nice bounce-back performance with 13 points (4-8 FG, 2-5 3FG, and 2-2 FT), 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 1 steal. The only downside to this performances came from her 5 turnovers, which correlates to more than 33% of the turnovers made by the team.
- Brynna Maxwell scored 12 points, all from three point range, and added 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Her scoring performance in this game helped her eclipse the 1,700 career points and cemented her legend status. If she had played her entire career with the Bulldogs, she would be #1 in all-time scoring.
- Callie Stokes played 15 minutes during which time she scored 9 points (4-6 FG and 1-3 3FG) and contributed 4 rebounds and 1 steal. This represents her second 9 point game in a row and she’s looking more and more confident with her role on the offense and I hope she can continue this success moving forward.
- Bree Salenbein may have only scored 3 points, but this came off her first career three pointer as a Zag and lead all players with 3 blocks. I think she’s still getting her legs under her, but she looks to be carving out a solid role off the bench as her minutes were coming early and consistently.